Updated: Oct 16
Foraging for fungi, one os Autumn's simple pleasures...
If You See a Fairy Ring
If you see a fairy ring In a field of grass, Very lightly step around, Tiptoe as you pass; Last night fairies frolicked there, And they're sleeping somewhere near. If you see a tiny fay Lying fast asleep, Shut your eyes and run away, Do not stay to peep; And be sure you never tell, Or you'll break a fairy spell.
Hello Creative Souls, 💜
Welcome to my October post and if you didn't realise, it's Friday 13th! I hope you have a spare 5 minutes and a cup of tea to sit back, relax and catch up with what I've been pondering on this autumn. I want to share with you the joy of mushroom hunting and also the energy of the nature spirits that are all around us this October. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. 🧚🏼♂️
Foraging for fungi in autumn is one of life's simple pleasures. I love all of the seasons, each bringing their own traditions, changes in our daily routines, the weather, seasonal food and gifts from nature, but for me, one of the simple pleasures in late summer and autumn is to go out looking for mushrooms. I love heading out for my daily walks in the anticipation of seeing new mushrooms and toadstools that have popped up overnight. Keeping my eyes peeled as I trek across wet grassy fields, through the damp woodland and past mossy tree stumps, shiny damp undergrowth and hedgerows. I love looking up into the tree tops and spotting heavy white or yellow mushrooms hanging off the side of a tree, picturing the fairies perched on the mushroom ledges. According to the Woodland Trust there are over 15,000 species of fungi in the UK. They live on land, in the water, in the air, and even in and on plants and animals. They vary widely in size and form, from the microscopically small to the largest organisms on Earth (at several square miles large).1 Wow, that is just awesome thinking about that!
Careful Where you Tread 🧚🏼♂️
As a child I remember going out for break-time at school, running out onto the school playing field, desperate for some fresh air and some freedom from the stuffy classroom, finding myself slap bang in the middle of a fairy ring. Where had this mushroom circle come from? As a child, who wholeheartedly believed in fairies, this was so magical. Full disclosure here, as an adult, I still believe in fairies, however, this was the first and last time I saw a fairy ring. After researching fairy ring mushrooms (Marasmius Oreades), it seems I may have gotten off lightly as in twelfth century, England, folklore states that these rings are caused by the elves dancing. The dancing fairies of Britain and Ireland are not always the charming little sprites that are featured in many of the children’s books we all know and love. They gambol under the moonlit nights, their tracks only becoming visible the next morning. The mushrooms around the outside are small seats for weary party fairy-folk to rest on. There are stories of humans joining in with the dancing, being lured into the circle by mischievous elves or fairies, with dire consequences. My advice would be to think twice before approaching a fairy ring, as merely stepping inside of one could have frightful ramifications.
Folklore & Myths 🧝♂️
There are lots of mythical stories and folklore surrounding fairy rings. Some cultures believe that they are portals to another world, while others say that the mushrooms are simply used as dinner tables for the fairies. There is also the belief that they bring good fortune and are a sign of a fairy village underground. Another folklore tale is that you should never step into a fairy ring, as you may become invisible or become trapped there forever.2
In Somerset, the fairy ring is known as a galley or gallows trap, and wandering into the ring could result in you becoming invisible permanently to other humans and being held captive by elves. This could mean disappearing into perpetual slavery in the magical kingdom below ground or being forced to dance to lassitude, delirium or even your untimely demise through fairy malevolence. 3
If you happen upon a fairy ring whilst out walking, after reading this tale you might think it a good idea to destroy it, however, according to legend, this is a pointless act, as it will only anger the fairy-folk, who will likely curse you. Even if done by accident or by kicking the mushrooms will bring you seven years bad luck and the ring will just grow back, and bigger.
There is much folklore across Europe and the UK when it comes to fairies and the ring of mushrooms and as we are approaching All Hallows' Eve, when the veil between the worlds are at its thinnest, I will leave you with this:
Run nine times, counter clockwise around the ring, preferably under the full moonlight or on All Hallows’ Eve and you may just hear the fairies who live underground. A word of warning - make sure you don’t overdo things as a tenth lap brings bad luck, but on a brighter note, fairy rings can be beneficial as they can mark the site of buried treasure, although having researched the antics of the elves and fairies and what they get up to, I, for one, won’t be going anywhere near a fairy ring. If I happen across one then I will admire it from afar and wish the fairy-folk well, as spotting a new fairy ring can bring good fortune and fertility.
A Cautionary Tale 🧡
This autumn I will continue to hunt for magical mushrooms which brings me such simple delights. A macabre fascination with the folklore and stories surrounding fungi. For millennia humans have been both mystified and scared of mushrooms, toadstools and fungi. These organisms offer us so much when it comes to medicine and healing, but at the opposite end of the scale it can offer us something far more sinister, so if you go down to the woods today I hope you find as much joy as I do in spotting the array of fungi that can be found, but my advice to you is, just look and admire, but don’t touch!
🍁 Let me know in the comments whether you have seen a fairy ring? Have you any folklore tales surrounding this phenomenon from your corner of the world?
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🌼 I will leave you with this quote to ponder on. A quote that has popped up a couple of times for me this week:
“In a time of destruction, create something.”
―Maxine Hong Kingston
Until next time creative souls,
Stay naturally curious,
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Book Recommendations & Resources
The Magic of Mushrooms, Fungi in folklore, superstition & traditional Medicine by Sandra Lawrence
Mushroom Magic by Michael Jordan
Mushrooms - Collins Gem
My YouTube Channel
Footnotes & Resources
3 The Magic of Mushrooms, p52, Sandra Lawrence